Many of my clients over the years have asked (or something similar), “How do I fix ____”. With our daily stresses and long to-do lists, it is easy to put mental health as one more item to check off the list.However, healing personally and within relationship is not a linear “one and done” process. I would argue that this is partly due to the fact there is nothing to fix.
Now of course, you can work on improving communication or using your wellness tools with intention and purpose. We can put meditation and therapy sessions on our schedules, and frequently we need to in order for them to get done! However, this does not mean that through simply hard work and determination we can change other people (or ourselves). Most of us are well experienced at this type of effort. Many times, the type of effort we need is in learning to let go, nurture and show compassion, especially to ourselves.
Furthermore, there is nothing to fix because to “fix” something implies that something is “broken”. We as human beings are not “broken”. We may have a list of ailments and diagnoses, but that does not mean that we are “broken”. We are all on our own place on the map and life is not a race. We each are given the life we have and have our own journeys of self-discovery and healing to do in this lifetime. Sometimes it is helpful to use a tool from DBT to illustrate this point. Disclaimer – I am not fully trained in DBT, but I still find some of their tools to be helpful. This particular tool is called Wise Mind and can be viewed as two overlapping circles. On one side is Emotional Mind and the other Rational Mind, with you
guessed it… Wise Mind in the middle (overlapping section). When we find ourselves wanting to “fix” things, it may suggest that we are in the Rational side. This happens often in relationships, when one person just wants to vent about something and the other one goes right into advice giving and suggestions. If the one venting isn’t able to communicate that they just want to be heard and not given advice, an argument may ensue. Same thing happens within our own selves, when a part of us really just wants our awareness and attention. For example, I had a client who when her sadness around her relationship with her mother would start to bubble up, she would distract herself and push down her tears. Pushing down tears is like trying to push a beach ball underwater, it will naturally shoot back up with much more force. So, instead I invited this client to stay with her emotion of sadness. Shifting out of Rational Mind, where she just wanted the emotions to stop, freed up some space for her to sit with the sadness in my office. Being in the presence of her therapist gave her the reassurance that his emotion would not over take her, but that she could instead give her sadness some awareness and attention. At the end of the session she reported having felt a sense of relief and less intensity of the emotion that she had previously been resisting. This to me is an example of “there is nothing to fix”, because this client initially wanted to “fix” her emotion of sadness. However, through gently giving herself permission to feel this emotion through a curious lens allowed her to release some of the emotional charge without having to avoid or push away or “fix”.
Written by Rebecca Bargeron, LCSW